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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • JOIN THE NAVY, 1917

Park Avenue Cats: 1951

Park Avenue Cats: 1951

New York, 1951. "Hoffman Motors, Park Avenue. Driver standing next to Jaguar Mark VII saloon." 5x7 acetate negative by John M. Fox. View full size.

 
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My first car....

was a 1960 Jaguar Mk IX. Very similar to this car but mine had a one piece windshield ("windscreen", to the Brits)and various mechanical improvements, including disc brakes all around. I paid $800 for it in 1972. No one wanted old "Unreliable" luxury cars like that at the time. I was 18 and could barely afford to keep it running. (yes, they WERE temperamental!) But...it just radiated old world charm! All that leather and burled walnut! As a contemporary review said about their interiors:"With all the leather and fine woodworking,one almost almost expects to look over in the corner and see a fireplace!"

Valve adjustment took over a week

My dad spent many hours fitting, gauging and measuring with a micrometer to adjust the valve clearance on a 1958 MK VIII that was almost a visual duplicate. It drove cross-country like a locomotive and got nearly 20 mpg back in the early 70s. It had a separate tiny carburetor enabled only when the engine was cold in place of the choke, in addition to twin SU's. The brakes were super-huge drums, and the power assist and master cylinder were hidden under the floorboards. Leaky SU carburetors and sparky Lucas electrics can lead to fires in the garage.

Redesigned

Three years after this photo, Max Hoffman would commission Frank Lloyd Wright to redesign his showroom on Park Ave. The showroom was demolished two years ago to make room for a bank branch office.

Mark X

That's what our music master drove. I was at the Royal High School, Edinburgh and although most of the masters and mistresses came by bus in those days (as did the boys) - he had a dark blue Mark X Jag!

World's fastest production car

Not the Mark VII, but the XK120: "On 30 May 1949, on the empty Ostend-Jabbeke motorway in Belgium, a prototype XK120 timed by the officials of the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium achieved an average of runs in opposing directions of 132.6 mph with the windscreen replaced by just one small aeroscreen and a catalogued alternative top gear ratio" (Wikipedia).

Nice car, Very poor maintenace

In my own experience having had a similar Jaguar in times past as a second vehicle for summer driving, I can attest that the car's handling characteristics were superb. However obtaining reliable service was another story. Friends who own the current build of Jaguar report that the service, reliability and handling are now top notch. One simply has to be able to have the money to afford such luxuries.

Volkswagen

Somewhere inside that showroom is a lowly VW Beetle, seemingly out of place among all the upscale imports. Max Hoffman was the first authorized importer of VWs, starting in 1950. (The claim that the first VWs in the US were sold in 1949 is only partially correct -- two samples were brought in and then sold rather than to bother shipping them back. They were not technically 'authorized' sales.)

Hoffman's VW sales were not huge but they were enough to make VW sit up and take notice. VW of America was founded in 1955 to handle distribution directly.

I've owned two 1950 Hoffman VWs over the years. I wish I'd kept one.

Snob Appeal

This particular marque was positioned in such socially rarefied air that even its pronunciation revealed one's breeding, ranging from "Jag-wire" (lowbrow) to "Jag-wahr" (comonplace) to "Jag-u-ah" (definitely British blueblood). Ironic, by the way, that such an aristocratic outfit pioneered the rather plebeian practice of naming automobiles after animals.

Morse's Mark

Wasn't this, except for color, then same vehicle used in the Inspector Morse television series?

[Morse's was a 1960 Mark 2. -tterrace]

Turn signals

There looks like a dreaded flipper-type turn signal in the front wing (fender). My early VW had them in the post behind the door. They were pretty dim and American drivers ignored them.

[That's a ventilator door. Like your VW, the "trafficator" signals were mounted in the B-pillar - the center post between the side windows. -tterrace]

A legendary importer

Max Hoffman (1904-1981) was the most influential U.S. importer of foreign cars (especially sports cars) in the period following World War II. He was the original importer of Volkswagens in the eastern U.S., the sole U.S. distributor of BMWs from the mid fifties until the mid seventies, and was responsible for suggesting the design of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, the Porsche 356 Speedster, the BMW 507, and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spyder. He was a giant among importers, along with the legendary Luigi Chinetti, who imported Ferraris.

The Park Avenue Theatre (1946-1952)

According to this history, the Park Avenue Theatre experimented with innovations designed to cater to the high-brow neighborhood, such as an annual subscription system, and "125 double loveseats in a raised mezzanine stadium section at the rear which was for smokers." It showed "Hamlet" for well over a year, and closed just a year after this photo was taken. Go figure.

"Poor Man's Bentley"?

I've heard that comment a few times over the years, but as a man whose first memory is of sitting in the back seat of our family Mark VII and who's owned seven Jaguars since (with five currently in the garage and driveway), and who's driven many a Bentley and Rolls over the years, I take exception to that remark. I choose Jaguar for its superior handling. If I were going to spend the price of a Bentley, I'd just buy three more Jaguars.

Big Iron

Look at how much steel that front quarter panel is made of! I really have liked this era of Jag saloons.

Jack Webb Loved His Mark VII

So much that he named his production company after it.

Hanging On

Though Britain's Jowett (maker of the Javelin and Jupiter) and France's Simca (last owned by Chrysler) are long defunct marques, Jaguar, despite several changes of ownership, continues to manufacture fine automobiles some 64 years after this photo was made.

Grace and Pace

The poor man's Bentley;

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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